Sponging up carbon emissions

CRYSTALLINE sponges developed by researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) in the United States could provide the best new carbon-capturing material available for use in the flue exhaust of power plants, according to co-inventor Omar Yaghi.
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Sabian Wilde

Yaghi is a professor of chemistry heading M-U's Materials Design and Discovery Group, focusing on the design and construction of new materials at a molecular level, particularly porous materials that can be used to capture gases or assist in complex liquid separation processes for the chemical and petrochemical industries.


M-U's research has led to the creation of a new class of crystals, with over 500 new porous materials that have been named metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs.


Essentially, the crystalline molecular structures create extremely low-density cages suitable for 'capturing' gases.


Earlier this month, Yaghi and a co-worker published a paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, claiming that one particular crystal sponge (MOF-177) had the highest carbon dioxide capacity of any porous material available in the world, able to adsorb 140% of its weight in CO2 at room temperature.


Yaghi estimates that due to the unique storage capacity of MOF-177, four carbon-storage tanks filled with the crystal sponge would be able to contain the same amount of carbon dioxide as nine standard tanks.


New materials such as MOF-177 are expected to play a vital role in the reduction of CO2 emissions, generated by most forms of power generation.


Another key focus of M-U's Materials Design and Discovery Group is the creation of small crystal structures for containing hydrogen or methane for use as portable power sources for laptops and mobile phones.



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